His chunky 5-foot-8 frame gave no hint of the giddyup in his short strides, but it was said of Foy Draper that he could run a hole through the wind.
His speed led to Gold, when he helped run a hole through the Nazis’ “master race” myth, which is why the best dateline for an Olympics story today is not London, but Tunis.
At the North Africa American Cemetery near Tunis today, defence Secretary Leon Panetta will pay tribute to the 2,841 U.S. servicemembers buried there after the World War II battles across Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia against Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Corps.
Panetta also will also stop at the tree-lined terrace of the Memorial leading to Wall of the Missing, where 3,724 names are engraved.
Among them is that of Capt. Foy Draper of the U.S. Army Air Force, who was lost on a mission as the pilot of an A20 Havoc bomber on Jan. 4, 1943.
At the XI Olympiad in Berlin in 1936, Hitler was infuriated as the German team fell short against the Americans led by the African-American Jesse Owens, who won Gold in the 100 meters, 200 meters and the long jump.
The U.S. team of Draper, Frank Wykoff, Sam Stoller and Marty Glickman was also considered a strong favourite in the 400 meter relay but the team was shaken up the night before the race.
In one of the most shameful incidents in sports history, Stoller and Glickman, the only Jewish-Americans on the U.S. team, were replaced by Owens and Ralph Metcalfe. There are several theories on why that happened, but one was that U.S. Olympic Committee Chairman Avery Brundage wanted to avoid giving offence to Hitler.
Draper and the others did their best to offend Hitler anyway. Despite their lack of practice together, the Americans blew away the competition.
Owens led off and gave the Americans a slight lead. Metcalfe built upon it and Draper held off a surge by the Italians to give Wykoff a perfect flying start. The Americans won by 15 meters in world record time of 39.8 seconds.
Foy Draper was speeding again seven years later to help another American team win against Hitler when he was lost over North Africa. On the Wall of the Missing, a verse from Ecclesiastes has been adapted into a mosaic: “Some there be which have no sepulchre. Their name liveth for evermore.”
(Photo: U.S. 400 meter relay champions in 1936 Olympics. From left, Jesse Owens, Ralph Metcalfe, Foy Draper, Frank Wykoff.)
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